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Ryan Healy answers: Should you be taking supplements?

Posted by Lara Salahi  July 24, 2013 08:38 AM

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Ryan Healy.jpgRyan Healy is a personal trainer for the Lynch/van Otterloo (LVO) YMCA in Marblehead. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, and earned her BS in Exercise Sports Science from Elon University. Find more posts by her in conjunction with the LVO YMCA at yhealthandwellness.wordpress.com. She can be reached at healyr@northshoreymca.org.

As a personal trainer I frequently get asked if I would recommend supplements for enhancing muscle growth, fat loss, recovery, or endurance. It’s hard to figure out what actually works when supplement companies make a lot of exaggerated claims that promise us the silver bullet to better bodies and minds. In my opinion, the most useful action we can take is to use an evidence based approach.

So how do we know what works and what doesn’t? We look at the research. Because I don’t have time to sort through study after study on my own, I look to one of my favorite and most trusted websites on supplements and nutrition, Examine.com. This site is a wealth of information, and is fiercely proud of its independence. "We get contacted by supplement companies every day. And every day, they ask us to potentially tweak X or Y fact mentioned on our site," said Sol Orwell, co-founder of Examine.com. "I always laugh - every revision on our site is publicly accessible. Every scientific paper is accessible. There are people who watch our pages like hawks, and if we trip up or try to lie, they will catch us. Our transparency is our very strength."

I asked Dr. Bryan Chung, PhD researcher in musculo-skeletal health and advisor for Examine.com, why he thinks using an evidence based approach is so important when it comes to supplementation. He told me, "With the current system of what is essentially non-regulation, there is virtually no agency that works in the public interest to certify that any individual supplement product does what it says it does. The claims that are made need to be legally defensible (usually through a scientific publication), but there can be a huge gap between 'defensible' and 'effective'. Part of making an informed decision involves examining the scientific literature on the supplement or nutritional decision. Otherwise, you're basing what is really not just a supplement or nutrition decision, but a health decision, on marketing and hearsay."

To help myself and my clients easily make informed decisions, I use their invaluable reference guide. Whether it’s creatine, blood sugar control, whey protein powder, or help with insomnia, I get an independent assessment. If you’re like me, and want to save time and money, don’t just rely on supplement advertising, use an evidence based approach!

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.

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Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at Boston.com. She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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